How to… Sear Scallops Perfectly
Fish. Roe. Shellfish. What do all of these items have in common? Home cooks are terrified of cooking them. And I am here to put an end to that! One of the most requested classes I have is how to cook seafood. Funny enough I was there once. When I was in culinary school, I somehow convinced myself that the dishes I made in class could not be replicated in my home. And I built up this fear of buying expensive items such as lamb racks, filets and scallops. Trust me I am just as appalled by this behavior as you are. It was my husband who actually changed my mind. One day hubs brought home and surprised me with perfectly gorgeous pan seared scallops. I was floored. HE could make them… at HOME. And was I, a trained chef, afraid of cooking them? Mind you, he did a fabulous job. They were gorgeously browned and so very tender. “Butter, my secret is butter,” he said to me with a smile on his face. Apparently he learned this technique from some chef on Food Network whose name he failed to recall. Nonetheless, they were delicious and after a 13-hour shift at work on my feet, I gobbled them up and licked the buttery goodness off my lips. It was hubs that in a sense inspired me that any home cook (let alone a trained chef) can make ANYTHING at home given the right technique and tools. So here are our vital rules for searing any protein (beef, chicken, fish etc.). In this case we are searing scallops.
1/2 a pound of scallops
2 tbsp of butter
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1. First, make sure your scallops are dry. There are stores that sell them soaked in a sodium solution. Try to avoid those stores. As a reference: typically Whole Foods and Costco have fabulous fresh scallops. Whole Foods are typically wild as well. Featured little beauties happened to be from Whole Foods.
2. Sometimes they have a “foot” which tends to be a bit tougher than the rest of the scallop meat. It’s easy to notice as it kind of sticks out. Just gently tear that off and use it in your fish stock… or do not, if that’s not your thing.
3. Lay your scallops on a paper towel and season them with salt and pepper. Remember salt will draw out any extra moisture. And when you have a dry surface, you get a better sear.
4. In the meantime get your stainless or cast iron frying pan ready. Notice I did NOT say non-stick. You do not want to use a non-stick, when you are searing your proteins. They just do not give your food that gorgeous crust, because they do not allow the food to stick to the surface that encourages the formation of the crust through the Maillard reaction. (caramelization of proteins)
5. Throw in about 2 tablespoons of butter in there. Let it melt over medium high heat.
6. Once the butter is all melted and sizzling, go ahead and place your scallops into the butter. Make sure you are placing them carefully into the pan in an “away from you” motion so to not burn yourself with the butter. You should also know that we only put proteins to be seared in a HOT PAN. Remember: cold protein, hot pan.
7. Now here is the most important part. DO NOT TOUCH THEM. Let them cook. It will take about 5 minutes on the first side. Seriously. Leave them alone. And only flip them, when they freely pull away from the pan. You can test this with tongs by lifting the scallop in a GENTLE wiggle back and forth motion. If it comes off easily, it’s all done on that side. And they will be brown and glorious.
8. Let them cook for another 3 minutes on the other side and then finish off with a drizzle of lemon over them in the hot pan. Remove the scallops and serve them with a few lemon wedges. OPTIONAL: You can make a quick pan sauce by adding in a 1/4 cup of wine to the pan along with 1 tbsp of butter. Let it reduce by half and then drizzle over the scallops.
9. I served them up with my yummy Lemony Parmesan Asparagus and a glass of crisp white wine. My dad who is not a fan of seafood fan at all practically licked the plate clean.
For a step by step tutorial and more pictures go to www.girlandthekitchen.com.